Resistance Training Myths Part 1: It Causes Stunted Growth

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Resistance Training Causes Stunted Growth?

Written by Mitchell Robinson

This series focuses on a number of myths we often hear at Sycamore Health relating to physiotherapy and exercise. Our goal is not that you become discouraged from exercising, but rather that you train safely and effectively and often!

A prevalent belief among gym-goers is that if children do RT they'll stunt their growth - either for the period of time they're weight training or potentially for the rest of their lives. By RT we mean a physical conditioning program that includes use of free weights, weight machines, plyometrics and functional exercises.

However, there’s no evidence RT in children stunts growth. 

There are two main factors for growth in children:

  • adequate nutrition and
  • not damaging epiphyseal plates (growth plates)

And research shows that RT prior to the closure of epiphyseal plates is not harmful or to be avoided (2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9).

We see some growth slowing in gymnastics, dance and wrestling – each characterised by calorie restrictions and catch-up growth when training ceases. But resistance training doesn’t rate a mention in reviews of sports that effect growth (10). 

But does this mean children should engage in resistance training? Although it seems the ability to gain muscular strength increases with age (1), the evidence supports RT for strength gains in prepubescents (5).

But wait, there’s more!

Myers and colleagues (2017) suggest that RT programs have a plethora of associated benefits for children – not just increases in strength. These benefits include lower rates of sports-related injury, increased bone strength index (BSI), decreased risk of fracture and improved self-esteem and interest in fitness!

If you’d like to begin RT but are unsure where to start, contact us! Physiotherapists are specialists in exercise and would love to help you take control of your health. We can even address any underlying or lingering injuries or pain you may have.

Next in this series: Resistance Training Myths Part 2 - Stretching Reduces DOMS

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1. Behringer, M., vom Heede, A., Yue, Z., & Mester, J. (2010). Effects of Resistance Training in Children and Adolescents: A Meta-analysis. Pediatrics. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-0445
2. Faigenbaum, D. F., Leonard, D. Z., Wayne, L. W., Lyle, J. M., & Allan, F. F. (1993). The Effects of a Twice-A-Week Strength Training Program on Children. Pediatric Exercise Science, 5(4), 339-346. doi: 10.1123/pes.5.4.339
3. Faigenbaum, A. D., Westcott, W. L., Loud, R. L., & Long, C. (1999). The effects of different resistance training protocols on muscular strength and endurance development in children. Pediatrics, 104(1), e5.
4. Falk, B., & Mor, G. (1996). The Effects of Resistance and Martial Arts Training in 6- to 8-Year-Old Boys. Pediatric Exercise Science, 8(1), 48-56. doi: 10.1123/pes.8.1.48
5. Falk, B., & Tenenbaum, G. (1996). The Effectiveness of Resistance Training in Children. Sports Medicine, 22(3), 176-186. doi: 10.2165/00007256-199622030-00004
6. Milone, M. T., Bernstein, J., Freedman, K. B., & Tjoumakaris, F. (2013). There is no need to avoid resistance training (weight lifting) until physeal closure. Phys Sportsmed, 41(4), 101-105. doi: 10.3810/psm.2013.11.2041
7. Myers, A. M., Beam, N. W., & Fakhoury, J. D. (2017). Resistance training for children and adolescents. Translational Pediatrics6(3), 137–143.
8. Ramsay, J. A., Blimkie, C. J., Smith, K., Garner, S., MacDougall, J. D., & Sale, D. G. (1990). Strength training effects in prepubescent boys. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 22(5), 605-614.
9. Rians, C. B., Weltman, A., Cahill, B. R., Janney, C. A., Tippett, S. R., & Katch, F. I. (1987). Strength training for prepubescent males: is it safe? Am J Sports Med, 15(5), 483-489. doi: 10.1177/036354658701500510
10. Rogol, A. D., Clark, P. A., & Roemmich, J. N. (2000). Growth and pubertal development in children and adolescents: effects of diet and physical activity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(2), 521S-528S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/72.2.521S

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